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Hunter’s Moon over North Dakota on October 15

The time has passed so quickly recently and I have neglected the blog so much.  Following our travels, the specialty issue of the Griffonnier was due and we began a full teardown of our kitchen (in addition to normal mom and substitute teacher duties).  But enough with the excuses.

Nebraska Sandhills duck, October 8-9

When covering Montana in my previous, I mentioned that they had some really swanky gate latches and I promised to show you a Nebraska Sandhills stick and wire latch.  Here is a prime example.

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Sandhills stick and wire gate latch

Charles had a great opening day of duck in the Nebraska Sandhills, all the way back on October 9th now.  Here was his duck total at noon:

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A green-winged teal, two blue-winged teal and a hen mallard

One of the highlights of the morning was on our very first jump, Charles shot one of the teal and Chief got in his first wild duck water retrieve.  This is something that I worked on extensively over the summer and felt quite a bit of pride in the fact that even though I didn’t shoot the duck, I had done the work to get the dog in the water and retrieve the duck.

The low point of the day was when we snuck up behind a flock of about 15 blue-winged teal at a beaver-dammed creek: Charles was on the far side of the creek about 25 feet away from the flock and I was literally about 10-15 feet behind them when they got up from the water.  I could see the detail of their wing feathers.  Both of us blasted directly at them and not a single duck came down.  We have never had anything like that happen before, it seemed to almost defy the laws of physics that every single pellet from four of our shots at that close range missed.  I am not sure what we did to make the goddess of the hunt angry, but she sure showed it there.

I believe Charles may have added a snipe or two to his end-of-day total, but I do not remember exactly now so far out.  I need to start carrying a notebook when I know that when I get home that I’ll be too busy to blog for awhile.

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Charles and Chief in the Sandhills

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Charles and the dogs at the end of Saturday

I told my 15 year-old daughter Cordelia on Sunday morning that, “Something is going to die today”.  I was desperate to get on the board.  Charles and I worked this network of ponds and swamps, we were probably 100 yards apart at times.  I heard him shoot.  He had all of the dogs with him and I strolled up on a little patch of swamp, where a dumpy little sora rail got up and flew.  I let loose with both barrels and saw it drop.  But it was in the swamp and I had no dogs.  So I start yelling to Charles and the dogs, not realizing that they were on the other side of an impenetrable swamp.  Charles made the gutsy move to try and walk across the swamp, ending up butt deep in goo and cussing the universe.  I was able to get my best sora dog, BB, from him (mid-fit) and sent her out on a blind retrieve for it.  It took her a couple of loops through that patch, but she found it in short order.  I figured that I had walked 40 miles so far in the season for that darned sora.

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Charity, BB and the prized sora rail

I don’t actually recall the exact chain of events that unfolded to bring Charles to this total, but it looks like he ended up with 2 teal and another hen mallard on the day.  If memory serves, the two hen mallards are the most mallards that he’s ever taken on the opening weekend trip.

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North Dakota: October 15-19

I am just going to do a high-level overview of our North Dakota trip, as it is difficult to do a daily blow-by-blow since I didn’t write anything down.  It is easy for me to recall my highlights of the trip, so I apologize to my hunting buddies, Charles and Lou, for getting a bit of storytime neglect here.  But they do get lots of photos.

The first spot of the first day produced for us all.  I took the first bird of the trip, a Hail Mary shot on a blue-winged teal.  It sailed for a ways in the tough winds, over a hill and into the water of a little pond.  I thought that we would never find it.  Luckily, Charles’s keen eyes spotted it floating behind some tall cattails in the pond.  The wind blew it back into shore and Charles was able to shoot a swatter round to get Chief to do a duck search.  What great NAVHDA Utility Test training.  He did find my duck and brought it in.  So exciting!

We had neglected this one tuft of cattails after working this whole waterfowl production area, so we swept back around with the dogs and checked it out.  We are all standing around chatting as Lou’s dog, Midge (Bluestem’s Big Sky Rendezvous CGC, NA I from Sam and Mae’s “F” Litter 2013) was working it and got up a rooster.  At that point we realized that the pond in the middle was dried up and began working it seriously.  Lou got a rooster shortly thereafter and Charles was soon to follow.

I feel the need to back up here to introduce Lou.  He and Charles hunted deer together as teenagers in the Catskills of New York.  After a stint as a wildland firefighter in Alaska, then as a scientist in New York Dept. of Environmental Quality, he made his way to Montana.  He is currently a hydrologist for the Montana DEQ, along with still fighting fire for their DNR, and co-owner of Vigilante Griffons with his wife, Lindsay http://www.vigilantegriffons.com/.  I never thought that I’d hunt with someone who is an equal shot to Charles, but he is.  He and Charles are also fabulous camp cooks, so I was pretty spoiled with my only camp task being to occasionally sweep the cabin floor.  Almost positive that we’ll see him again in the hunting fields, as we all had a great time.

Either way, we ended our first day with me with the one teal, Charles with a limit of three rooster pheasants and Lou with two.

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Lou, Charles and I with the dogs and the first day’s birds

The second day was a really long day, I know that Charles ended up with a limit within the last hour of the day and Lou got two.  Still nothing but hens were getting up in front of me.

Tuesday the 18th presented us the opportunity to hunt with my co-breeder Aaron, and our co-bred pup Chewie (Bluestem’s Chewbacca, aged 5 months).  For a little pup, it sure kept up for a long morning hunt!  They boys all took birds out of the morning field and we got a cool pic with lots of griffons.

4 griffon owners, 7 griffons, one hunt in North Dakota. Lou Volpe of Vigilante Griffons with 5 year old Midge (Bluestem Big Sky Rendevous CGC, NA I), and 11 year old Murf. Aaron Klusmire, my co-breeder, with 5 month old Chewie (Bluestem Chewbacca) rolling on the ground. Me with 6 year old Velma (De Jac’s Zip A Dee Doo Dah, NA I) and 1.5 year old Chief (Bluestem Otoe Chief, NA II). My husband Charles Upchurch with 5 1/2 year old BB (Bourg-Royal CB Bluestem JH, NA I UT III) and 2 year old Fire (Bluestem Prairie Fire, NA I).img_0631

The total on Tuesday was Charles with two, Lou with one and I was still skunked.

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Tuesday morning’s North Dakota rainbow

Wednesday morning was cold and I bundled up tight.  We went to the spot that we call the “honey hole”.  I had a rooster fly close over my left shoulder, but I was too stoved up to get a good shot.  I ended up blocking one side of the cattails while Lou, Charles and the dogs worked towards me.  I marked where two roosters landed, then waiting for the guys to get with me.  Lou and his pack worked the east side of this clump of cattails and bushes, while Charles and I worked the west.  I turned to Charles and said, “They’re right here”.  No sooner did I turn back around, but a rooster got up about 5 yards in front of me.  I let it get up and moving, focused on leading the head of the bird, and dropped it with one shot to the head.  It was super exciting and Fire got right in on the retrieve, but had a hard time pulling it out of the tangle of dead branches.

I came out of that spot with one and Lou had two.  I was tired, so I sat next to a pond for the last spot of the trip.  Both Lou and Charles limited out in a short while and we headed back to camp to prepare to head for home.

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Me and my rooster of the trip

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Lou and his last day’s limit

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Charles and his final day’s limit

We came home to Halloween and deer season, where Charles yet again took a nice muley buck a couple of weekends ago.  We are deep in the throes of this kitchen remodel and don’t really have any firm plans upcoming to get out.  I’m sure we’ll chase some Nebraska roosters and quail here someday soon, but you’ll just have to check back to see.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!  So much to be thankful for in this land of bounty, especially to the First Nations peoples who welcomed the Europeans so kindly in the beginning, much to the misfortune of their future.  God Bless America.